In 2003, the UFC touched down in Miami, Florida for UFC 42. In attendance sat an amateur mixed martial artist who recently transitioned from fighting in the street to a more organized setting. His name: Jorge Masvidal.
At the time, Masvidal idolized fighters like Matt Hughes and Robbie Lawler, so watching them compete a few hundred feet away in American Airlines Arena was a dream come true. When the show was over, Masvidal’s outlook on those athletes shifted. Those weren’t just his idols anymore; they were potential challengers.
“I grew up all over Miami,” Masvidal said. “I was here 20 years ago for [UFC 42] and I was an amateur, training two or three times a day getting myself ready for the fights. I came to the show after all the nostalgia left my body from seeing all these guys I’ve been studying and worshipping. After all that left, and I was watching the fights, I was like, ‘Man, I know I can contend here. I know I can be here, and I know I’m gonna bring this show back.’”
Jorge Masvidal | The Blessing Of Miami
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Jorge Masvidal | The Blessing Of Miami
Masvidal’s self-confidence, and reassurance from his father, guided him to professional mixed martial arts as soon as he turned 18 years old. “Gamebred” started his career fighting locally in Fort Lauderdale for the Absolute Fighting Championships, and four minutes into his professional debut, Masvidal earned his first knockout victory. With a professional fight under his belt – a successful one at that – it was clear Masvidal chose the right career, and he continued climbing the ranks of various organizations before signing with the UFC in 2013. During his rise, his parents stood by him, supporting his career choice even if they couldn’t bear to watch the violence their son elicits from his opponents.
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“[My dad] would always give me the best advice in a way he knew would get through to me because I’m like a wild animal; If you tell me left, I’m gonna do right every time just ‘cause. He would just be able to talk to me and tell me, ‘You actually have skill, you have potential, you’ve been bustin’ your ass at this for a while. We’re gonna go pro and you’re gonna go far. So, definitely, me and him have been a dynamic team.
“My mom was against it in the beginning, obviously. I’m her boy, so she didn’t want to see me get hurt. But my dad always knew since I was a kid that I’m rowdy; I let these hands go and that’s what I like to do. Other people like basketball, they play since they’re two or three years old. This was my everything for me.”
Two decades later, Masvidal has kept his word. “Gamebred’s” collected 12 UFC victories, reached two welterweight title fights, claimed the BMF belt, and has become a worldwide star for his authentic personality and highlight reel finishes. All of those accolades led him to this weekend, when the UFC returns to Miami for UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2.
Masvidal’s lived in Miami his entire career and is quick to acknowledge the city as the heart of his success. For the first time since rising to fame, Masvidal gets the opportunity to perform in front of his hometown supporters against fellow Floridian and Top 5 welterweight contender Gilbert Burns.
As special as it is to compete in front of all your supporters, training in the comfort of your own home is just as sweet. Training at American Top Team, one of the world’s most prestigious MMA gyms and one filled with elite UFC talent, including Dustin Poirier and Mateusz Gamrot, Masvidal only needs to make a short drive to and from training sessions, and can finish the final, grueling aspects of a training camp without needing to travel.
“[It makes a] huge difference,” Masvidal said regarding training close to home. “The weight, the flying. You fly sometimes and your feet don’t fit in your shoe, your ankles are huge. Not flying is amazing, man. Just to do this in my own backyard, it feels like it’s f****** cheating because I got a sauna at the house, I got everything at the house that I need. My gym, American Top Team isn’t far from here, so I really feel like it’s almost cheating. My home has always been a flight, a hotel and that’s it, let’s get to work. Now it’s different; I’m in my own house, I’m gonna get to sleep in my own bed, drive my own car to the arena. It’s going to be a different feeling. Gilbert and nobody in the world is ready for what’s coming.”
Miami also hosts the perfect setting for Masvidal to turn his career back in the right direction after three consecutive losses. In 2019, Masvidal earned his third straight knockout victory and was first in line to accept a short notice fight against Kamaru Usman for the welterweight strap in Abu Dhabi. After 25 minutes, Masvidal withstood Usman’s power, but lost via unanimous decision.
In their rematch nine months later, Usman doubled down and earned another victory over Masvidal, this time by second-round knockout. Then, in one of the UFC’s biggest grudge matches, Masvidal fell short against Colby Covington, a former friend turned bitter rival.
These losses weighed heavily on Masvidal’s mind, and opened his eyes to the root of these setbacks. Masvidal found himself in a negative environment that was holding back his potential, so he started weeding out anything and anyone that didn’t contribute to his happiness and success.
“Many things are different,” Masvidal said regarding his mindset this training camp compared to recent years. “The environment around me is different. I had a lot of negative stuff removed from my life; negative people removed from my life. Things that wouldn’t add up to the final equation, which is a win, got cut off my life. There’s a lot of things that have changed, and with that, it’s granted me this overwhelming amount of free thought and space and positivity running through my body, my mind, my soul. I can’t wait to get in there and wreck this dude and restart my career all over again.”
The first part of Masvidal’s three-part plan is defeating Burns, a former title challenger with notable wins over Stephen Thompson, Neil Magny and Tyron Woodley. Coming into the UFC as a world champion in jiu-jitsu, Burns evolved into a well-rounded, dangerous athlete who can put opponents away wherever the fight goes.
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Despite Burns’ accolades across MMA and jiu-jitsu, Masvidal doesn’t believe Burns is on the same level skill-for-skill, especially on the feet, and predicts he’ll resort to wrestling after an initial onslaught of early power shots. In preparation for “Durinho,” Masvidal cited his jaw-dropping five second knockout over Ben Askren at UFC 239 and anticipates a similar outcome.
“Gilbert Burns is good, but I don’t think he’s ever been at my level,” Masvidal said. “I just want to show the world that we’ve never been on the same playing field. I’ve seen Gilbert since he started, and I like him a lot because he was just a jiu-jitsu guy but now, he’s added hands, kicks, his takedowns have gotten better. I think he’s a stud, there’s a reason why he’s a Top 5 guy. When it comes to me, I’m going to show the world that we’re not in the same world, same playing field.”
“He’s going to throw bombs in the beginning and crotch sniff after that. He’s going to come in front like he’s going to throw, he’ll throw for like a minute or two and after that he’s going to go right to the crotch and sniff. Sometimes, people when they crotch sniff, they don’t get so lucky, and they catch a knee instead. Without saying too much, my strategy is to just punch him in the face over and over until I break him.”
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Steps two and three: obtaining the welterweight title from Leon Edwards and defending the belt by the end of the year.
“The goal for this year is to beat the living breaks off of Gilbert ‘cause I don’t underestimate any man. He’s got two hands, two feet. I’m gonna beat the dog s*** out of him. Then after that, we’re going to get in a plane, and what I mean by we is Miami [and] all my supporters, and we’re going to on over to England, I’m going to use that belt to beat over the head of Leon. Then after that I’m going to get another fight because no matter what, I’m fighting three times this year. Court cases, lawsuits, injuries, all types of s*** has been f****** me up these last two years where I haven’t been able to compete at my regular rhythm, which is three fights a year. All I’m focused on is fighting three times this year with three Ws. If you know me, I’m all about the KO, I’m trying to get three finishes. I’m not trying, I’m going to get three finishes and that’s it. That’s for 2023.”
UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2 took place live from Kayesa Center in Miami, Florida on April 8, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!